The idea of operating a virtual office is not one that is super new to our profession, but it is one that is becoming increasingly more popular each year. The year that has been 2020 has put many firms against the wall and forced them to expedite their move to the cloud due to COVID-19.
Before the country was sent into lockdown in March 2020, we were already seeing a large shift in the technology stacks of tax and accounting firms toward cloud technologies. For the longest time, firms were using desktop software to operate the same way since they opened their firm. Now, firms are seeing the benefits of live access to their firm from anywhere, and in some cases, the data of the small businesses they support.
There are a few reasons firms look to cloud technologies. To reiterate, firms need to be able to work from anywhere. The cloud enables firms to stay connected no matter where they are, no matter where their employees are, and most importantly, no matter where their clients are. The cloud enables a firm in Texas to serve clients in Florida. It enables a firm in Boston to hire an employee in Washington. It enables firms to get the work done regardless of geographical barriers. Originally, the connection the cloud provides is the first benefit that firms were looking for – and is the reason many firms start exploring the cloud in the first place.
Much of our country did go into some sort of lockdown due to COVID-19, and we’ve seen an uptick in the speed in which firms are moving to the cloud. The ability for people to work from anywhere was immediately more important; after all, tax season and client expectations didn’t change much other than extended filing deadlines, even though COVID-19 forced many to begin to work from home. The firms that were already operating in the cloud or at least taking steps in that direction had a much easier time at the onset of COVID-19, transitioning to working from home or having their staff work from home. Those firms that had not taken any steps had a much harder time, and had to resort to much more drastic measures to keep their employees safe. One example that comes to mind is of a firm that had their employees come in shifts, which means that they had CPAs working the night shift to get tax returns out the door, all because they had no way to enable the firm staff to work from home.
Firms using Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax, Lacerte® Tax, and ProSeries® Tax were able to transition to working from home using tools such as Intuit Practice Management powered by Karbon and Hosting for ProSeries and Lacerte for their tax programs. Intuit Practice Management allows firms to stay connected to their staff, clients, and workflows, while operating in the office or remotely. Cloud hosting, on the other hand, allows firms to take their trusted desktop software and add all the benefits of the cloud, including security, anytime access, and reduced IT hassle, to their existing workflows. Firms that use hosting were able to work from home as needed, while also keeping their client data even safer in the cloud.
Regardless of which software you use, the bottom line is to enable you firm to be as virtual as possible. No matter when COVID-19 becomes a thing of the past, firms undoubtably will evaluate being 100 percent on site versus working remotely.